Condom Controversy at BC: Could it Happen at Holy Cross?
Friday, March 29, 2013
Students from Boston College set up areas of their dorms known as "Safe Sites", as places where students can go to to get free condoms and sexual health information.
A web site for the student's organization, BC Students for Sexual Health includes articles events, tips for safe sex and list of dorm rooms both on campus and off where students can find the needed materials.
BC students living in the Safe Sites were told in the letter that the distribution of condoms is in conflict with their “responsibility to protect the values and traditions of Boston College as a Jesuit, Catholic institution.”
Kristine Maloney, Director, National Communications & Media Relations for Holy Cross issued this statement from the university.
"As part of our institutional policy, Holy Cross Health Services does not distribute or prescribe contraceptives. While we cannot speculate on hypothetical situations or comment on events at other campuses, an action or incident by a student or students at Holy Cross that appeared to be counter to College policy would be investigated according to our published Student Code of Conduct and disciplinary procedures."
The moves by the colleges has sparked outrage from the American Civil Liberties Union who claim that the colleges have a First Amendment right to explain, advertise, and persuade students of their views, but they have gone a step further by threatening these students, in a statement released in Boston earlier this week.
The universities maintain that they are private, religious institutions and have the right to set and enforce policies as they see fit. And that being private, the ACLU has no standing in the matter at the Jesuit school.
Sarah Wunsch a lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union in Boston stated in rebuttal, "we have the State Civil Rights Act, " she said. "And it applies to private institutions, entities as well as government."
"It states that no one can interfere or attempt to interfere with someone else's rights by the results of threats, intimidation or coercion," she added. Our view (ACLU) is that the colleges are different than churches for example as they hire from outside and have a wide range of views and people very unlike a seminary."
Wunsch went further to say that the colleges are operating in public sphere not a private one such as a church and because of that difference the law doesn't give them an exemption simply because of a religious affiliation.
"When these schools threaten a student within the privacy of their own dorm room for providing information and condoms, we feel it interferes with a student's rights," Wunsch said.
Wunsch pointed out that under the federal Affordable Care Act, the schools will be required in some way to cover prescription contraception.
Attempts to reach student groups at Holy Cross were unsuccessful to learn if similar activities are planned. However, Lizzie Jekanowski who is the Chair of BC Students for Sexual Health and is at the center of the issue in Boston did agree to speak with GoLocal Worcester on Thursday afternoon.
Jekanowski, asked if this safe-sex issue ran contrary what was being taught in traditional Catholic upbringing said, "These last four years at school has broadened my understanding of Catholicism and going to a Jesuit Catholic institution" she said.
The Jesuit Catholics tradition stresses so strongly on social justice and they always say to 'go set the world aflame until you light the fire in others' and their focus on marginalized population, depressed populations and to stand by and be advocates of their work, that is exactly the work that we're doing," she added.
Emily Davies, a student from Assumption College, while not Catholic herself could see the points of both sides of the equation. "I really don't think that a student should be threatened with any kind of suspension if they were doing this in the privacy of their own room. you can go down the street and buy a condom in any corner store," she said. "And if a person wanted to give them out for free, looking out for others, I don't consider that a bad thing," she added.
"Trying to prevent pregnancy or disease is fine with me but I can understand why a Catholic school or mindset would be against it because they want their students to respect themselves and abstain from sex. So while I can see both sides, I don't think anyone should be punished for it."
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